Friday, September 7, 2012

Asian Eyes' China - Bo Bing

        Everyone knew about lantern festival and mooncakes but not many, especially if you are not from Xiamen, knew about 'Bobing'. In this article, I will write about an unique Xiamen celebration called 'Bo Bing' held during the mid-autumn festivals. The Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar. Every year when the Mid-Autumn Festival approaches, streets and lanes in Xiamen will come alive with the noisy clang of dices colliding with china bowl during moon cake gambling. Xiamen's 'moon cake gambling' is also called 'the Mid-Autumn Festival cake gambling'. The tradition of this 'Bo Bing (搏饼)" is still very much a Xiamen thing, except the game may be played by a small group of Xiamen immigrants to Shanghai and Taiwan. 
Previously Bo Bing was about gambling mooncakes

Zheng Chenggong statue in Xiamen, said 
to start the first Bo Bing tradition 
         'Bo Bing' custom is related to Zheng Chenggong (鄭成功), also known as Fukumatsu and Koxinga, a national hero. It was said that Zheng Chenggong stationed his troops in Xiamen more than 300 years ago. On the full moon night of the 15th day of the eighth Chinese month, officers and soldiers, who were full of the heroic spirit that overturned the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) and reinstated the Ming Dynasty, found it hard to avoid homesick feelings. To resolve and relieve soldiers' pains of homesickness during the festival, Hong Xu, who served under Zheng Chenggong, devised a mooncake gambling game to let soldiers admire the full moon and gamble for mooncakes. Zheng Chenggong personally approved that, during six nights from the 13th to the 18th of the eighth lunar month, the army would admire the full moon and gamble for moon cakes in turns according to odd and even dates. Later, this unique custom gradually disseminated and improved among locals, becoming an interesting folk activity.

The clang of dices in china bowl in Bo Bing gave an added
festive atmosphere
Scoring rules explanation 
       I had a rare chance to participate in a 'Bo Bing' game one mid Autumn in Xiamen during a team building outing. All the 'Bo Bing' game requires are six dices and a china bowl. There were 10 person in my table and each of us threw the six dices into the bowl by turn and the different dice numbers stand for different ranks of awards you will win. Nowadays, the moon cakes are not the only kind of award. With the upgrade of people's living standards, daily necessities, household appliances and even money can also be won. It is very common for departmental stores to have 'Bo Bing' sale where household goods ended up as prizes in this game. At my table the host had prepared prizes consist of moon cakes and household items like liquid soaps, shampoos, toothpastes, toothbrushes, washing powders, cooking oil, soy sauces and many other items one finds in bathroom or kitchen. The game has something to do with the number 'four', the more the better. The most I got during my turn was 3 'fours' only. I remember I won many household prizes that I would have trouble to take back.  Only one player will win the lucky title "Zhuangyuan" (状元) . Prizes exchange has made the game even popular among younger generations, I invited my table mates to swap with my prizes. At the end, when all the prizes had been won and the 'Zhuangyan' winner from my table had moved on to the grand table to compete for the grand prize, I put forth all my winnings to be 'Bo Bing' by the other 8 at my tables since I was a traveler, there just for the fun. That was the spirit of 'Bo Bing', and they all cheered and had a jolly good time. 
        Everyone went back with at least 6 months to a year supply of toiletries and kitchen's ingredients. I think the real biggest winners were not us but those business owners who held 'Bo Bing' sale!

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